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International Management: Ethics and Culture Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 28th, 2019


Ethics is a discipline that is concerned with evaluating an individuals’ or a society’s moral standards. As a result, ethics determines what is acceptable or non-acceptable in a society (Weiss, 2009, p.1). In the business environment, it is vital for the parties involved to appreciate ethical issues because the existence of ethical congruence is vital for there to be a successful relationship between the various stakeholders.

For example, adherence to ethics enables a firm to develop an environment conducive for working. However, there are no universally accepted standards that define ethical conducts practiced around the world. Therefore, managers are required to develop ethics which will aid their firm to succeed.

According to Ralston, Egri, Casado, Fu and Wangenheim (2009, p. 374), dealing with ethical issues is challenging especially in the international business environment. This is due to existence of cross cultural issues. Corrupt societies are not effective in developing relationships. This has the effect or reducing foreign direct investment.

In an effort to understand how life stage and societal culture impact subordinates influence on ethics, the researcher undertaken by Ralston et al (2009, p. 374) evaluates the on ethics in the workplace. This is achieved by evaluating how the various ethical perspectives are integrated by organizations subordinates in an effort to influence top management or the seniors.

The researchers’ core emphasis is on how life stage and societal culture influence subordinates.’ This is attained by taking into account the existing cultural diversity which is revealed by existence of differences in moral standards and ethics within a society across countries. The study has also taken into consideration both experiential and conceptual objective in an effort to evaluate the various multi-level and multi-country aspects related to life stage theory and societal culture.

Hierarchy of ethics

Studies conducted on the three dimensions which form the hierarchy of ethics reveal that they are evident in different countries. The 3 hierarchy of ethics evaluated include the following behaviors;

  • Organizationally beneficial
  • Self-indulgent
  • Destructive

The study considers organizationally beneficial behaviors to be the most important in the operation of an organization. These behaviors relate to the code of conduct which employees are required to integrate in executing their duties. These behaviors are beneficial in the performance of a firm.

For example, employees are required to portray expertise in their executing their duties. This significantly contributes towards the organization operating effectively and efficiently. Additionally, employees are required to develop a good working relationship with the employees. This will play a vital role in creating an environment conducive for working.

For example, emphasizing on development of organizationally beneficial behaviors by managers can lead into development of an environment conducive for creation of teamwork within the firm. The resultant effect is that the firm will be able to executive its projects more effectively and efficiently.

Self indulgent behaviors

Self indulgent behaviors occur when employees are concerned with their own self interest. This means that the employees are not concerned with the attainment of the organization goal but their own interests. In addition, the employees are not sensitive of the interest of the other employees the firm. This leads to development of ‘me first’ attitude.

According to the study, these behaviors can harm the organization. For example, due to existence of such behaviors, the employees may conflict with each other especially if they perceive that they are standing in their path towards attainment of their personal goals. The resultant effect is that employee productivity is adversely affected.

Additionally, they may negatively influence the managers in their decision making process so as to achieve their personal interest. Therefore, it is vital for firms’ managers to manage such behaviors effectively to ensure that they do not negatively affect the firms operation.

One of the ways through which the managers can instill ethics amongst the employees is by ensuring that they understand that their personal success is dependent on the success of the firm. As a result, all their efforts should be geared towards attainment of the firm’s goals. In addition, managers should ensure that they are efficient in organizational conflict resolution.

Destructive behavior

These behaviors are similar to self-indulgent behavior in that they may harm the operation of a firm. However, destructive behaviors are extremely self-serving in that they are directly aimed at harming others. Some examples of destructive behaviors include sexual harassment.

Issuing threats of giving outsiders such as the competitors’ sensitive customer information if one’s demand is not met, and offering sexual favors to individuals in senior positions. Such behaviors should be discouraged by ensuring that the employees understand the legal consequences associated with such behaviors.

How of life stage and societal culture impact subordinate influence on ethics

The study explores two main issues which influence ethics. These include life stage and societal culture. The study has conducted a comprehensive analysis of how life stage influences subordinate influence ethics. To achieve this, various demographic variables are taken into consideration in the study.

One of the demographic variables used in evaluating the effect of life stage on ethics at the micro level is age. Findings of various studies conducted by a number of scholars revealed that age difference is a key predictor of existence of behavior differences amongst various individuals (Mellahi & Guermatt, 2004, p.199). According to life stage model, human development is composed of four stages whereby every stage is characterized by distinctive values and behaviors.

This means that individuals in different age group possess different values and behaviors from those of other groups (Khosrowpour, 2006, p.11). The study reveals that age has a significant influence on the behaviors portrayed and values held by employees in the work environment. According to this theory, the age of an individual is one of the factors determining the value and moral standards he or she forms at the micro-level.

This is inline with the macro-level argument which asserts that there are different levels (micro, macro and meso level) that lead into emergence of similar values and behaviors amongst individuals. This forms the basis for the argument that it is possible to advance crossvergence theory thus making it to be a multi-level model.

According to the life stage theory, there is a clear difference with regard to employees’ preference. For example, in their early adulthood, individuals are characterized by a high degree of self interest and more individualistic. In addition, they are mostly concerned with ascending the corporate ladder compared to individuals in their middle adulthood who are more collective.

This means that individuals in their middle adulthood are likely to portray organizationally beneficial ethics. On the other hand, individuals in early adulthood tend to portray self indulgent ethics which might be destructive. Some of the components of societal culture relate to ethnicity, religion, race, country and the culture existing in the society. These aspects have an influence on the moral and ethical standards (Eden, 2008, p. 1).

The study also evaluates societal differences as one of the macro-level components that can be used to predict subordinate influence ethics. The research argues that numerous researches have been conducted to determine societal influences on work values. This led to development of two theories which include the convergence and divergence theory.

Societal divergence theory postulates that individual-level values are primarily determined by socio-cultural influence. The study asserts that the two main value dimensions that are universally accepted as the ones which differentiate societal values include individualism and collectivism. Individualism and collectivism is one of the dimensions that can be used to explain existence of cultural differences.

It defines the extent to which individuals within an organization or society are integrated (Bellou, 2003, p. 496). Societal-convergence theory postulates that business principles and social-cultural aspects are the ‘primary determinants of a society’s values’. On the other hand, crossvergence theory argues that it is paramount to take into consideration both socio-cultural and business principles in the process of determining how individual-level values are developed ( Kelly, Macnab & Worthley, 2006, p. 67).

The study reveals that there is a difference that exists across countries with regard to economic development. For example, Brazil has a relatively moderate rate of economic development and individualism. China has a moderate of economic growth rate but low level of individualism. Germany has a low rate of individualism and a high rate of economic growth.

According to the convergence theory, there is a high probability of the US and Germany to have the same social-cultural dimensions. Similarly, China and Brazil will also have similar characteristics. On the other hand, divergence theory forecasts that China and Germany will have similar characteristics.

Additionally, the study also illustrates that it is possible to determine the subordinate influence of ethics in a multi-cultural context. Ralston et al also asserts that it is possible to determine the influence of societal culture and life stage theory on subordinate influence ethics behavior more substantially compared to individually.

The research illustrates that cultural value systems have a significant influence on an individual’s ethics and moral standards. It further evaluates the subordinate influence on ethics in a multi-cultural context. In an effort to appraise the subordinate influence on ethics in the business environment, the study has underscored the importance of undertaking multi-level crossvergence study.

The study asserts that it is paramount to take into consideration both societal culture effects and life stage. Crossvergence aids in developing a comprehensive understanding on the subordinate influence ethics. This arises from the fact that both societal differences and micro-level differences are taken into consideration.

Differences in culture within organizations

According to Aluko (2003, p. 168), organizations do not operate in a vacuum. They are affected by social-cultural environment in a number of ways. For example, firms source their human resource from the society in which they operate. Therefore, an organization is composed of employees who possess different characteristics such as profession, nationality, ethnicity, and organizational culture.

Additionally, the employees have diverse values, beliefs, and attitudes which form the organizational culture (Bono, Heijden & Jones, 2008, p. 242). By appreciating the fact that culture differs across societies, Hofstede developed five dimensions which can be used to evaluate cultural diversity across countries.

According to Hofstede, an organization’s culture is dependent on a number of internal and external factors. Additionally, these factors influence an individual’s ethics and moral standards. Some of the external dimensions that influence an individual relate to personal habits, religion, educational qualification, work experience, geographic location, income, marital status, and parental status and recreation habits.

Internal dimensions relate to race, ethnicity, physical ability, age and sexual orientation. These are the distinguishable features of an individual. On the other hand, organizational dimensions relate to management stature, work field/content, seniority, union affiliation, management status functional level and group. Both organizational dimension and external dimensions are acquired over time.

These dimensions have a significant influence on an individual’s values and behaviors which means that they have an influence on an individual’s ethics and moral standards. According to Stonehouse and Campbell (2004, p.67), the culture of an organization is determined by a number of factors. These include national culture, industry culture, nature of employees, management style, size of organization, and history of organization.

The cultures of the home or host country play a vital role in determining the culture to be developed within the organization. Similarly, firms in a particular industry are required to develop a certain culture. The size of and organization also has an impact on the culture developed within an organization.

For example, large organizations tend to have a more formalized and complex culture compared to small firms. According to Stonehouse and Campbell, individuals at the senior management level play a vital role in developing a certain ‘feel’ in the organization. On the other hand, the employees’ background, educational level and training play a significant role in shaping an organizational culture.

Cultural diversity play a vital role in shaping the employees ethics, values and moral standards which consequently affect their work habits either individually or as a team. For example, some of the aspects which can be influenced by cultural diversity relate to employee relationship and time consciousness (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2007, p.1).

This attests to the fact that an individual ethics and moral standards are influenced by both life stage and the society (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2007, p.1). The Hofstedes cultural dimension is used to illustrate the degree to which individuals accept the existing differences with regard to either intellectual or physical capabilities which culminate into inequalities with regard to wellbeing (Bono, Heijden &Jones, 2008, p.243).

In an organizational setting, cultural diversity depicts the existing power distance. Within an organization, there is a significant degree of power distance. Power distance is affected by the nature of the organization structure which a firm has adopted. For example, if an organization has adopted a rigid organization structure such as hierarchical organizational structure depicts high power distance.

This is due to the fact that there is no free communication within the firm whereby employees have an opportunity to share their views and opinions with the management team. On the other hand, an organization that has adopted a flexible organization structure is characterized by low power distance. Employees have an opportunity to participate in the decision making process by sharing their views and opinions.

Therefore, cultural diversity which is determined by both the society and life stage has an effect on the moral standards and ethics developed by employees in the workplace (Ralston & Hallinger, 2005, 337). This is inline with the cultural ethical relativism which states that ‘what is right or wrong, good or bad, is dependent on one’s culture.’

Analysis of Hofstede model

In an effort to evaluate the existence of cultural differences in an organization, Hofstede asserts that it is not possible for an individual to think globally. As a result, managers are culturally constrained (Ward, Bochner & Furnham, 2001, p. 170). This presents a challenge to managers of multinational firms.

Managers are required to develop uniform corporate-wide practices to ensure that the firm succeeds and in order to achieve this, they have to consider the existing cultural differences. However, this may adversely affect the corporate culture of the firm. Additionally, expatriate managers have to deal with differences in the workforce with regard to demographics.

Due to the high rate of globalization, various groups in organizations are increasingly becoming culturally diverse (Ward, Bochner & Furnham, 2001, p.171). This is due to the existence of differences with regard societal culture. Societal cultural diversity illustrates the various differences existing in a society as a result of nationality, gender, culture and organization.

Differences in culture are evident in such aspects as behavior, beliefs, and social norms, religious or social groups (Niishi & Ozbigin, 2007, p.1883). Culture can also be defined as a set of social lessons which are learnt over time. For multinational firms to succeed, it is paramount for managers to ensure that a strong organizational culture is developed (Elias, 1999, p. 84).

One of the ways through which this can be achieved is by understanding and appreciating the existing cultural diversity. As a result, it will be possible for the management team to develop effective management practices which are inline with the existing cultural beliefs and ethics. In order to understand the existing cultural diversity, mangers should incorporate the Hofstedes model.

The model has a number of dimensions which include power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity-femininity, individualism-collectivism, and long term orientation. By determining power distance index, it will be possible to evaluate the differences in power distribution and decision making.

On the other hand, individualism-collectivism will aid in determining how the various groups in the organization are integrated. Masculinity-feminism will aid in determining value preference within the organization. On the other hand, long term orientation is concerned with defining ethics such preferred in the organisation such as persistence, relationships and traditions.


From the study, it is evident that subordinate influences on ethics depend on such factors as life stage and societal culture. The study has substantiated this claim by taking into consideration a number of theories which include diverse theory, congruence theory, and crossvergence theory. Additionally, the research has also revealed that an individual’s behaviour varies depending on his life stage.

The resultant effect is that one moral and ethical standard is influenced culminating into a direct influence in his or her productivity in the work environment. By taking into account a number of countries such as the US, China and Brazil, the findings of the research indicate that culture varies across countries. In their operations, multinational companies are faced with numerous challenges arising from existence of cultural differences.

Reference List

Aluko, M., 2003. The impact of culture on organizational performance in selected textile firms in Nigeria. Nordic Journal of African Studies. Vol. 12, issue 2, pp. 164-179.

Bellou, V., 2003. Identifying organizational culture and subcultures within Greek public hospitals. Journal of Health Organization and Management. Vol, 22, issue 5, pp. 496-509.

Bono, S., Heijdenm A. & Jones, E., 2008. Managing cultural diversity. Northam: Roundhouse.

Eden, L., 2008. Letter from the editor in chief. Journal of International Business Studies. Vol. 39, issue 5, pp. 1-7.

Elias, R., 1999. The impact of corporate ethical values on perceptions of earning management. Managerial Auditing Journal. Vol. 19, issue 1, pp. 84-98.

Kelly, l., Macnab, B. & Worthley, R. 2006. Crossvergence and cultural tendencies: longitudinal test of the Hong Kong, Taiwan, and United States banking sectors. Journal of International management. Vol. 12, issue 4, pp. 67-64.

Khosrowpour, M., 2006. Cases on information technology; lessons learned. Hershey: Idea Group.

Mellahi, K. & Guermatt, C., 2004. Does age matter? An empirical examination of the effect of age on managerial values and practices in India. Journal of World Business. Vol. 39, pp. 199-216.

Moran, R., Harris, P. & Moran, S., 2007. Managing cultural differences; global leadership strategies for the 21st century. Amsterdam, Boston: Butterworth Heinemann.

Niishi, L. & Ozbilgin, M., 2007. Global diversity management: towards a conceptual framework. International Journal of Human Resource Management. Vol. 18, issue 11, pp. 1883-1894.

Ralston, D.A., Egri, C. P., Casado, T., Fu, P. P. & Wangenheim, F. 2009. The impact of life stage and societal culture on subordinate influence ethics: A study of Brazil, China, Germany, and the U.S. Journal of International Management. Vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 374-368.

Ralston, D.A. & Hallinger, P., 2005. The effect of culture and life stage on workplace strategies of upward influence: a comparison of Thailand and the United States. Journal of World Business. Vol. 30, issue 3, pp. 321-337.

Stonehouse, G. & Campbell, E., 2004. Global transnational business: strategy and management. Chichester: Wiley.

Ward, C., Bochner, S. & Furnham, A., 2001. The psychology of culture shock. New York: Routledge.

Weiss, J., 2009. Business ethics; a stakeholders and issues management approach. Australia: South Western Cengage Learning.

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